Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hideo Nakata’s terrifying horror film Ring, the film will be re-released in UK cinemas sporting a brand new restoration before being unveiled on Digital, DVD, Blu-ray and Limited Edition Steelbook.
Hideo Nakata’s brilliant Ring, a terrifying horror film about a killer videotape that was remade in the US, will be re-released in UK cinemas sporting a brand new restoration. You’ll be able to see the film on the big screen at the Prince Charles Cinema on Feb 21 and at select Vue, Odeon, Cineworld and Showcase cinemas throughout the UK from March 1.
The film, which prompted critic Daniel Fierman to write in Entertainment Weekly – “If you don’t mind, I’m off to the corner of my office to curl into a fetal position and rock slowly” – after finding it proudly frightening, will then be unveiled on Digital, DVD, Blu-ray and Limited Edition Steelbook (as well as Limited Edition box set with Ring 2).
Ring tells the story of Reiko (Nanako Matsushima), a journalist who sets out to discover why a group of teenage friends all died suddenly, their bodies found with grotesque contortions. What Reiko discovers is shocking: a cursed videotape, its contents giving anyone who views it one week to live; that is unless they can persuade someone else to watch it and pass the curse on.
The film ushered in a period of international adoration for “J-horror”. Today the twisted visage of Sadako is one of horror’s most recognisable icons, alongside some of American cinema’s greatest horror film villains like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Unsurprisingly, since the film was released there have been remakes, re-imaginations and imitators, but none can compare to Hideo Nakata’s unique, slow-burning nightmare. The big screen will offer some viewers the chance to experience this classic of the genre at the cinema for the first time while its debut on Blu-ray will offer both the new restoration and a wealth of bonus content.
James White, Head of Restoration at Arrow Films, says it was with “genuine excitement” that he approached the “restoration of Ring“. “I wanted to do justice to this milestone of horror and present it as director Hideo Nakata and his fellow creators intended. Fortunately we had access to the original camera negative, which we had newly scanned in 4K at Imagica Labs in Tokyo. Having access to the negative was extremely important as so many presentations of Japanese films have suffered in the west from not being sourced from the original elements.”
White says one of the critical factors was having director of photography Jun’ichirō Hayashi involved. “The overall look of Ring – from its muted colour scheme and its sharp details to its deep contrast levels – is one of the most essential things that make the film so suspenseful and unsettling,” says White. “Once we received the new scans at R3Store Studios in London the team restored the images of any dirt, debris and light scratches (fortunately the negative was in very good condition overall) and applied a basic first-template grade to send to Mr Hayashi, using old references from the previous DVD releases as a guide.”
Thankfully, says White, Ring DoP Hayashi was happy with the new restoration. It’s hoped the film will now find a new audience that perhaps missed it in the late 1990s and 2000s. Arrow Films’ restoration team were, adds White, helped by Hayashi’s guidance who was on hand throughout the project and very specific about what he wanted to see. “The film was too warm, and needed to be cooler – as well as darker,” he told the team after it initially showed him its work.
“We adjusted the grading shot by shot and again, sent the film back to Mr Hayashi. As before, he was complementary of the work but stressed that we simply hadn’t gone dark enough. As I worried that we might push things too far, we began sending him individually regraded scenes to make sure that we were on the right track.
“We had some reservations that pushing the film’s colours any cooler would result in greenish skin tones and corrupted white and black areas, but by working this way, scene by scene, over a number of weeks, we were able to arrive at exactly the look Nakata and Hayashi intended, and serving the story in the best possible way. As such, this restoration presents Ring in a way that vastly improves upon the brownish flat look it had previously exhibited on video.”
Ring, described as the most frightening film of all time by The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw, presented a new era for international horror movies when it arrived in 1998. Following the ultra violent American horror films of the 1980s and 1990s, it took a more sombre, more slowly paced, more atmospheric approach. It heralded a period of filmmaking that showcased the potential of the unknown as inherently frightening rather than the show of violence or outright terror and gore.
“I expect most people interested in seeing our restoration are already well familiar with Ring, but my hope is that the experience of seeing the film in this way, fully restored from the original negative and approved by its cinematographer, will feel as fresh and terrifying as it was that first time,” says White. “Having overseen this project, I’ve probably seen the film at least fifty times or more by now, but I can attest to the fact that it still manages to work its haunting spell on me.”
Ring will screen at Prince Charles Cinema in London on Feb 21 and at selected Vue, Cineworld, Showcase and Odeon cinemas throughout the UK from March 1. The newly restored film will then arrive on Digital, DVD, Blu-ray and Limited Edition Steelbook on March 18.